Ten years ago this week, VoicesofWrestling.com was born.

Originally designed to be a website and podcast series where people would discuss how they became wrestling fans and why they are fans today, the website eventually evolved into what you see today. This week, to celebrate our 10th anniversary, we invited VOW contributors past and present to re-create that original concept with a twist: why did you become a wrestling fan and how has your wrestling fandom changed in the last ten years.

We hope you enjoy the #VOW10 series and encourage you to share your memories of VoicesofWrestling.com, our columns, our reviews, our previews, our writers and our podcasts by using #VOW10 on Twitter or jumping into our special #VOW10 Discord channel.

Thank you for a great ten years. Enjoy.

-Rich Kraetsch

Voices of Wrestling 10th Anniversary

Ever since I was a little kid, I was always fascinated with professional wrestling. Growing up in Plymouth, Minnesota, I always heard the stories about the legendary AWA and Vern Gagne who held shows just 15 minutes away in Robbinsdale. My dad would have the TV on Sunday afternoons when he was a teenager. Heck, my mom even went to school with the Hennigs. Growing up, I had the Hulk Hogan wrestling buddy and used to throw him around like I was the Macho Man. My wrestling fandom, however, is a little more complicated than that.

When my mother was growing up in the ’60s, she had an older brother that was about seven years her elder. Back in those days, wrestling was much more widely viewed as a real sport and less of sports entertainment. My uncle happened to be one of those people. He would perform moves on my mom when she was a little kid and she grew to really not like professional wrestling, which halted my initial viewing of it. To be honest, I don’t blame her. Once we started watching, we found ourselves suplexing and spearing each other throughout the house, even making a hole in the wall when I speared my little brother onto a reclining couch.

While I didn’t start watching wrestling until 2003 with the Brock Lesnar/Kurt Angle Iron Man Match, it has always resonated with me. That match, along with the John Cena/Eddie Guerrero parking lot brawl the following week on SmackDown got me hooked. I was a diehard fan of both WWE and TNA up until the tragic events surrounding Chris Benoit and his family. At that point in my life, I was heading into my senior year of high school. Being involved in a lot of activities along with having a group of friends for the first time put wrestling on the back burner. It wasn’t until CM Punk was at the top of WWE that I really started to gravitate back to the product, and it started with the pipe bomb.

It’s amazing the influence that the Pipe Bomb has had on us at Voices of Wrestling. Whether it be the genesis of creativity or reigning in a lapsed fan, it has done wonders for us including myself. Throughout the last 10 years, there have been a lot of great moments that have shaped all of us here as wrestling fans. With me having been a lapsed fan for the better part of 10 years, I always wanted to jump back in, but never really found that footing after Punk’s infamous program, until the week of my best friend’s wedding.

My best friend Tom and I have been friends for upwards of 20 years now. For his wedding, I gifted him and his wife a few things including a week down in the Twin Cities to help them with all of the last-minute things before the wedding. That week holds a lot of special memories for me, but other than the wedding itself, there is one that stands out. On January 4, 2017, Dave Meltzer broke the star scale and rated Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada as a 6-star match from New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom. Up to this point, I had heard of Dave Meltzer but had never subscribed to the newsletter nor listened to any audio of his. I happened to scroll Twitter that afternoon and saw that and was floored.

How could you:

  1. Break the star scale?
  2. Who is Kazuchika Okada?
  3. How do I watch this match?

I had heard of Kenny Omega from a couple of friends, but I had never seen any of his matches.

That night, I went on a mission to find the match. Thankfully, someone had uploaded it to YouTube, and I got to watch it in its entirety before TV Asahi took it down. 45 minutes later, my life was forever changed.

Having only ever watched WWE and TNA growing up, this was a massive shock to me. What struck me first off was the presentation of the product. It felt like I was watching a title fight rather than a wrestling match. Even coming in blind to this match, the video package beforehand told you what the story was, how they got there and established in a general sense who each combatant was. I was immediately hyped to watch the match. Once the bell rang, you could feel the energy in the building. It felt like a Muhammad Ali title fight. Throughout the match, I was jumping out of my chair at seemingly every big spot, especially the avalanche dragon suplex. The sheer insanity and execution of that spot from both the wrestlers and the commentators Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino. Once Omega took that final rainmaker that dropped him right on his neck, I was immediately hooked. What was incredible to me is how this kind of greatness wasn’t commonplace with the seemingly best and biggest promotion in the world. During my wrestling fandom to this point, only a few matches that I thought were genuinely great came close to this one.

  • Turning Point 2004: America’s Most Wanted vs Triple X Six Sides of Steel
  • WrestleMania 20: Chris Benoit vs HHH vs Shawn Michaels
  • ECW One Night Stand: John Cena vs Rob Van Dam
  • Money In The Bank 2011: CM Punk vs John Cena

Even with all the greatness that I listed above, none of them held a candle to how masterful the 6-star Omega/Okada match was. What I didn’t realize at the time was how the match would shape me moving forward.

Within a year, I was fully addicted to wrestling again, watching anything and everything I could get my hands on. I was waking up early to watch New Japan shows, ROH, even Impact during their tough stretch. I had become a huge fan again, and even more so come February of 2019. That month I almost passed away from a twice ruptured appendix that turned gangrene and I almost went into septic shock. By the grace of God, I came out of it healthy as can be. It was a huge turning point for me. I decided to stop just thinking about doing things and I started pursuing my dream of being in media in some way, shape or form and going to wrestling shows. I flew down to the G1 show in Dallas, TX where I ended up meeting John Carroll and Damon McDonald of Voices of Wrestling at a meetup for New Japan fans I helped organized and shared a suite at the show with both Damon and Joe Lanza.

That show felt life-changing for me.

The energy and passion of every fan in attendance was astronomical and seeing a live Okada/Tanahashi match that started with a standing ovation just amplified my passion for wrestling even more. I don’t think I’ve had a better time on vacation than I did down in Texas for the G1 in Dallas.

Just a few months later, John reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to help write previews and reviews for the upcoming Destruction shows. Fast forward almost two years later and I’m amazed at where I am today working with such a great group of people.

I have no idea if I would still be such a big wrestling fan if I hadn’t found out about Dave Meltzer’s six-star rating, but I sure am glad I opened Twitter that day.